«With BRO I am perceived differently in society».
Our power wheelchair cannot fly (yet). But flying with it in an aeroplane works very well. Reto travelled to South Africa with his BRO. There, BRO also caught the eye of the animal kingdom.
In a telephone conversation, Reto told me what he experienced in South Africa. Here is a field report from his perspective.
«The first time I experienced a sense of freedom was when I drove out of the airport in Cape Town with BRO. Thanks to BRO, I am independent and do not have to rely on any help. I have been to Cape Town many times, but never in a wheelchair. It was also the first time I had flown with an electric wheelchair in my luggage.
Everything went well at the check-in in Zurich. This was also because I had informed myself well in advance and registered the power wheelchair accordingly. The unloading from the plane, on the other hand, was more of a challenge than expected.
Transport of heavy goods
Power wheelchairs are transported in the hold of the aircraft in a special container. When it comes to unloading at the airport, every ground crew does things somewhat differently.
In Cape Town, I even had to lend a hand. The ground crew had tried to push BRO onto a luggage conveyor belt. This resulted in the small wheels of the support system getting caught. Fortunately, I know my BRO very well by now and was able to easily retract the support system with the remote control. This allowed them to remove the wheelchair from the conveyor belt undamaged.
In Zurich, BRO arrived on a trolley and three men then lifted off the 160-kilogram (!) electric wheelchair. I wanted to warn them about how heavy the wheelchair is, but they were too quick. I suppose everyone has their own way of doing things.
My memories of a trip are greatly influenced by how the staff treats me as well as my wheelchair. It seems there are big differences.
Flying with BRO
Scewo BRO is approved for transport as luggage on aircraft. The lithium-ion battery is an integral part of the wheelchair and must therefore not be removed. BRO must be checked in and the wheelchair user must change over to a special wheelchair provided by the airline. It is highly recommended to contact the airline in advance and clarify the exact procedure.
The journey there and back is something I remember fondly. I felt well taken care of by the staff who looked after me. During my stopover in Doha, I thought for a moment that I had been forgotten. In such situations, it helps to be able to stand up and have a loud voice. I was therefore able to draw attention to myself.
At check-in in Zurich, I pointed out that it is possible to remove the cushions to make BRO even more compact. This tip was acted on promptly. Now my hand luggage comprised not only my bag, but also two cushions. From then on, I always had to remember not to leave them lying around somewhere.
On the flight back, I did not point this out again. Another good solution would be to check in the cushions with the rest of the luggage. But one would have to think about that in advance.
But the journey was not the destination. In Cape Town, I went on several excursions. I visited the penguins in False Bay, for example. They were visibly taken with BRO. Did they perhaps think that BRO was one of them because of the similar colours?
I was also out and about in the city, visiting museums and the botanical garden. It has a wheelchair-accessible path with a wooden bridge. Highly recommended! Despite its alleged wheelchair accessibility, many stretches of the path would not have been accessible with another wheelchair. The various modes make BRO very flexible. BRO also gave me a clear advantage on construction sites, where wheelchair accessibility is often an afterthought at best. In addition to the flexibility, it is the driving experience on the two wheels that is simply unique!
My mother and her partner’s house in South Africa is not wheelchair accessible at all. Even BRO reached its limits. There are two ways to get to the house: via a steep passage or through the garden across a lawn. The incline was too steep for the driving mode and the grass too soft. Good thing there’s a remote control! This allowed me to pilot BRO over to the house.
For practical reasons, we left BRO at home when we went on short trips. With support, I can walk short distances. But you get looked at differently. The admiration that BRO inspires falls away. With BRO, I am independent and do not have to rely on anyone.
BRO is somewhat like a dog. You easily come into contact with other people. I am often approached in Switzerland too, but even more so in South Africa. In a restaurant, a waitress asked me if she could try out BRO. Of course! So I drove up a flight of stairs to the terrace. When I looked back, the entire staff was suddenly standing there watching me. Children also love BRO. One boy said he wants one too when he grows up. I somehow doubt that, though.
One time when the lift broke down in the hotel, I was particularly grateful for the stair mode. Otherwise, I would probably have been trapped there for a few hours. When I then simply drove down the stairs, the staff could hardly believe their eyes.
Due to the corona situation, I am very restricted in my everyday life at the moment. Currently. I also do most of my work as a software developer and CEO of FactsMission AG from home. When my clients say let’s have the meeting online, I always think: Oh, what a pity, after all I have such a cool wheelchair!
What I find interesting is that I am feeling more and more at one with BRO. I adapt my movements to it automatically. My confidence in BRO is also growing by the day. I would travel with it again in a heartbeat! When I’m on the move, it gives me a sense of security and freedom.»